Give and Take

A breakthrough, then. A triumph, of sorts.You claw at the wall, scratching it bitterly. You fight, tooth and nail. Sometimes, you feel as if you might be able to climb the wall. To clamber over, swing your legs above the top of the hurdle and get down safely on the other side. You feel as if, in some ways, you are making progress.

"Fikri," my teacher called out to me as soon as he announced the end of the class. With the sounds of "Thank you, sir" still ringing clearly in my ears, I made my way over to him. "The film you presented," he continued, as he put his folders inside his bag, "where can I get it?"

Two weeks ago, he had told me that we'll be looking at the short films that we like. Having somewhat exhausted his and our own options, our job, then, was to get the short films, of whichever kind and type, and make a presentation about it in class. Not entirely difficult, mind you, and on paper; it's the sort of thing I could do in my sleep.

If that particular paper was written in English. I am lucky enough to be studying here in Korea, and until the day I day, I will be indebted to a lot of other people who had decided my course and fate to occur here. A side effect of that, however, is that I have to work on my Korean. Pronto.

There is, of course, learning the language, and then there is actually using it. Like almost any other language, I'm willing to bet that what we learn and what we learn is as different as night and day. Slangs, acronyms, speed, dialects, enunciation, and other such barriers also stand in the way. And then there's the jargon that's specific to the field I'm in. Final Cut Pro? With the interface in Korean, it's more like Final Cut Amateur.

There is learning, and then there is using what we learn.

Quite frankly, my Korean is not that great. I had learned aplenty, but there is still a big gap from where I am and where I, need to be. My first semester almost literally passed me over, and I had to fight incredibly hard to ignore the feelings of irrelevance, of not being able to contribute and take on board the experience, knowledge, and skill as much as I had wanted. I pushed deep down the sense that when others talk, they're talking at me; when they laugh, I'm the butt of their jokes; when their voices lower as I walk past, it is my name that's engraved underneath the word 'SUBJECT'. Of course, this isn't the actual case. Most probably not. But it is the feeling here that I am trying to get explain. For the longest time, it was (and still can be) an uncomfortable one.

For the shortest time, I considered throwing the towel in.

But today was different. When my teacher suggested that I do the presentation, I didn't hesitate even for a moment to select Ahmed Imamovic's '10 Minutes'.

I discussed what the film meant to me, how I came across it as I sought inspiration by typing 'short film' on Youtube. I talked about the style, and how the short film, along with Song Il-gon's 'The Magicians', had a direct influence on my directorial vision. I spoke of how it is a film that perfectly embodies the world as it is; as I am writing this now, safe in my bed, a family is being bombed somewhere in the world. It is a fact that we all know, but the film hits home an emotional reminder squarely between the eyes.

"Sure," I rushed back to my desk, took the DVD, and gave it to him. "You can have this one, sir."

Almost immediately after that, another of my classmate asked the same question.

And then another.

The gap is still there, mind you. However, it's getting smaller and smaller. Finally, I have contributed something.

I just wanted to share the wonderful feeling it was.